The music evokes the broad empty landscapes, sleepy cantinas, and heavy-eyed senoritas of the mythical past where the differences between bad hombres and honest men were not always clear.
The Mavericks have a big sound. On their latest release, the (somewhat) newly re-formed band offer the aural equivalent of one of those widescreen Cinemascope Technicolor westerns of the late '50s/early '60s. The music evokes the broad empty landscapes, sleepy cantinas, and heavy-eyed senoritas of the mythical past where the differences between bad hombres and honest men were not always clear. That drunk in the corner saloon could be a doctor, the sheriff, a bum or an outlaw, and which one is the better person is anyone’s guess.
Much of the credit belongs to Raul Malo’s horse-operatic vocals. Critics have long compared his intonations with that of the late Roy Orbison, but Malo sings with more of a flourish. He cites Elvis Presley’s “It’s Now or Never” as a significant influence. You can hear this in the way Malo lets the notes linger in songs such as the romantic “For the Ages”. He turns words such as “sweeter”, “shining”, and “twinkle” into shimmering expressions of love. As Malo co-produced the album, he gets credit for the decision to put his voice in the forefront. But he alone is not responsible for the other factors that give the disc such a full sound. The muscular horns and sweeping accordion licks of the backup band, the Fantastic Four, add to the record’s spaciousness. The layered instrumentation suggests the sparse density of the sonic strata. Even when the musicians play together, there is a sense of silence such as on the quiet, slow and lovely “Goodnight Waltz”.
The Mavericks know how to kick it up a notch, too. Songs such as the blues-meets-Chuck Berry mash-up “Ride Me Up”, the rollicking shanty “Easy As It Seems” and the liberating vibe of “Damned (If You Do)” showcase the talents of the Mavericks’ core members: drummer Paul Deakin, guitarist Eddie Perez, and keyboardist Jerry Dale McFadden. They consistently provide a solid foundation for the ten new songs on the album no matter if they are playing Tex–Mex, western swing, rhythm & blues, country, or rock ‘n’ roll.
The material may vary in style and substance, but the balance of the tunes lend themselves to the side of having fun. That’s certainly true of the opening track that sets the album’s tone, “Rolling Along” that promotes the benefits of marijuana when dealing with life’s pressures and offers sly references to Willie Nelson and flying like a bird on the wing. The title track, “Brand New Day”, takes a more strident approach. The current situation may be bleak, but tomorrow will come. There is a promise of light when things are darkest: love can make the future bright. These may be clichés, but the cadenced shibboleths offer hope. Still, the cut may be the album’s weakest and one has to wonder why it was designated as its title. The breezy “I Will Be Yours” offers a similar sentiment (“though time is borrowed / every tomorrow / will bring us closer / than yesterday”) without pretentiousness despite the spoken word interlude.
The record may be short, less than 40 minutes long, but the band’s fans will find plenty of tasty treats. Malo’s strong vocals and the ringing instrumentation suggest the material would work better live, but the well-crafted studio production makes Brand New Day a welcome addition to the Mavericks' catalog.